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Enabling Atrocities: UN Member States’ Arms Transfers to the Myanmar Military

February 22nd, 2022  •  Author:   UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar , UN Human Rights Council  •  2 minute read
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Conference room paper of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar


The Myanmar junta is committing gross human rights violations against the people of Myanmar.  It is bombing villages indiscriminately, forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands. Its troops have engaged in mass killings on numerous occasions and tortured dozens to death.  It is criminalizing basic human rights, including the right to express dissent—both on the streets and online.  It is actively committing probable crimes against humanity and war crimes.

This paper examines a key aspect of the international community’s response to the Myanmar military’s illegal coup and these subsequent violations of international law – the supply of weapons to the military junta that are used to attack the people of Myanmar.  It also makes recommendations to reduce the flow of weapons to the junta and save lives.

The paper details known arms transfers from Member States to Myanmar since 2018, and in particular since the military coup on 1 February 2021, that could be used by the Myanmar military to attack civilians.  The Special Rapporteur also discusses the legality of these transfers, applying international humanitarian law, customary international law related to state responsibility, and the Arms Trade Treaty, where applicable.

As the Myanmar military’s attacks against civilians escalate, it is critical that Member States immediately consider how they might alter their response to this crisis. This can begin by examining the role of the Security Council and Member States since the junta’s coup one year ago.  How have the actions, or inaction, of the Security Council and Member States contributed to the crisis in Myanmar?  What changes can and must be made to save lives, reduce human suffering, and protect the human rights of the Myanmar people?

Amongst his recommendations, the Special Rapporteur urges the Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions against the Myanmar military.  At the very least, he urges Member States of the Security Council to immediately propose a resolution to stop the flow of weapons that are actively being used by the military junta to attack Myanmar civilians: jet aircraft, attack helicopters, armored vehicles, light and heavy artillery, missiles and rockets that can be used to target ground targets, artillery shells, and small arms.  The choice between action and inaction is literally a matter of life and death.

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